It’s #tbt at Echo – here we share posts that were originally shared at Efficiency by Emily or emilyhoapili.com. It’s been updated before posting here.
Most of us know the name Eisenhower as President Eisenhower, but before he had that gig, he was a US Army General in World War II. As you can imagine, that job came with a pretty steep to do list, and Eisenhower had to figure out a way to figure out what needed his attention and what didn’t, and he came up with the Eisenhower principle/matrix.
I’ve always been intrigued by the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize tasks.
I use Todoist, which offers four priority levels with tasks. Prior to fully adopting the Eisenhower Matrix for a week, I used the priority levels somewhat arbitrarily – some things were marked as important but weren’t, some were important but I didn’t mark it, etc. No consistency. In my mind, if it was on the list, it was important. I wanted a way to “rank” tasks better, hence why I gave the Eisenhower Matrix a shot.
The basics of the Eisenhower Matrix are fairly simple
Every task you have gets put into one of four quadrants based on:
- 1: Urgent AND Important (DO)
- 2: Urgent but NOT Important (DELEGATE)
- 3: Not Urgent, but Important (SCHEDULE)
- 4: Not Important OR Urgent (DELETE)
The system is likely perfect for people who are in positions of authority (say, a World War II general).
For me, it has its flaws.
Fair warning, this may initially seem as though I’m not a fan of the Eisenhower Matrix BUT…bear with me.
Categorizing tasks as simply as “urgent” and/or “important” was tough for me, in all honesty. I’ve always been strict with defining “urgent.” Time-sensitive, in my opinion, is a better description for tasks others may define as “urgent.” “Important” is another definition that can vary – what’s important to some is not important to others.
One particular section of the Eisenhower Matrix made me side eye it from the beginning. Not every small business owner has the luxury to delegate tasks to anyone.
Another quirk of the Eisenhower Matrix is the reevaluation many tasks will need. Take, for instance, laundry. It’s important, but its not urgent. Until, that is, you’re out of clothes. Then, it becomes important AND urgent. Some tasks may not be urgent or important, but does that mean you delete them? For example – I have a task to journal every night. This is not urgent, and some days, its not important. But it is something I try to do every day, and so, it belongs on my list.
I adapted the basic premise of the Eisenhower Matrix for those of us who are unable to delegate to others or schedule tasks for later:
- 1: Time sensitive AND Important (DO OR DIE – These things gotta get done, and now)
- 2: Time sensitive but NOT Important (MUST – These things gotta get done because their is a deadline)
- 3: Not Time sensitive, but Important (SHOULD – Needs done, but all is not lost if you postpone)
- 4: Not Time sensitive OR Urgent (COULD – Got some extra time? Swell! That’s for these tasks.)
Since I kicked this off with a list of complaints, I’ll end on a positive note:
This system did force me to evaluate tasks and how important they actually are. I tend to read tips and how to’s, think “oh I wanna do that!” and start. Filtering tasks made me reevaluate some of those “oh I wanna”’s and see they had to wait until I knocked out more of the Do Quadrant.
Thanks to Todoist and its filters, I’m able to keep lists focused by tasks and their priority level. Because I have various projects, I don’t have to bounce to each checking I’ve done everything that’s important or urgent.
So, overall review?
If you have a hard time picking what’s important, the Eisenhower Matrix is a good place to start. And if it’s not for you, try our own adaptation of it.